Finding the fix

Takaaki Iwabu

Although he admits he’s not a “traffic guru,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. seems to get it: He gets how Miami-Dade residents are being tortured by traffic gridlock every single day. And as the new chairman of the County Commission’s Transit and Mobility Services Committee, he must be a voice for tortured victims.

Fellow Commissioner Sally Heyman got it right when she recently told the Editorial Board that in Miami-Dade, we no longer have rush hour, “We have a rush day,” she said. Indeed.

A quick fix is impossible. However, Mr. Bovo brings a grasp of the problem and a willingness to help provide relief — and that goes a long way. The commissioner and his staff bring fresh eyes and fresh ideas worthy of serious debate. And that’s what Dade Countians need: Someone to tackle our multifaceted transit problems in a new way. “I want efficient public-transit options,” Mr. Bovo said.

Mr. Bovo alone can’t fix what’s broken, but he’s offering leadership, and we’ll take it. He should strive to bring long-term transit goals into focus, and he’ll need commission colleagues’ support.

When he spoke to the Editorial Board recently, Mr. Bovo detailed his immediate agenda — and it sounds promising. He is well aware that the half-penny sales tax that voters approved in 2002 has been eaten up by operating and maintenance costs. Mr. Bovo said those tax funds, which raises millions a year, have even been used to purchase work gloves for transit employees. That’s only part of an egregious misuse of the funds that county officials, at the time, pledged would create a functional transit network. But promises were spottily kept: Yes, travelers can take Metrorail to the airport, and Metromover is free (though it shouldn’t be, at this point. Too bad commissioners voted down charging a fare on Tuesday). But there’s been no expansion out west; the 27th Avenue corridor has been cheated and, as Ms. Heyman pointed out, bus service is nonexistent in pockets of the county.

Mr. Bovo thinks that there’s at least enough money to break ground on one major signature mass-transit project by the end of 2016, which he outlined in his March 17 Other Views article.

He says he’ll first focus on fixing transit problems in the north end of the county. Reviving dormant transit plans, he says, Tri-Rail could be linked to the MIC at Miami International Airport. From there, a spur rail track could be built to downtown Miami, where users could then go west and north. The idea is that, one day, a rider in West Kendall could connect, via Metrorail, Tri-Rail, All Aboard Florida or buses, all the way to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando.

“These plans have been considered in the past, but nothing came of them,” he said. Mr. Bovo and his staff are dusting them off, instead of ordering up expensive new studies.

The commissioner would also like to explore using hotel bed-tax money — paid mostly by tourists and other visitors — to make improvements. “Tourists use our roads, too. Why not?” he asked.

Mr. Bovo says that if the county doesn’t get fixes rolling, it will fail future generations. Wouldn’t it be ironic if gridlock, not a killer hurricane, wiped out paradise? Mr. Bovo said he has two years to make a difference.

We need him to succeed.